College of the Redwoods

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Humboldt State University

College Matters | Shively Farm provides hands-on learning experience

This article was originally posted in the College Matters column of the Times-Standard.

Friday, July 15, 2022 - 1:50pm

College of the Redwoods has a variety of labs to provide students with hands-on learning. For our agriculture program, that lab is the Shively Farm. The beautiful 36-acre sustainable and certified organic farm has grown programmatically since it was first gifted to us in the will of John Bianchi in 1995, to become an anchor of the college’s sustainability efforts while also aiding in the recruitment and retention of CR students.

At our July 5 meeting of the Board of Trustees, agriculture production manager and associate faculty, Silas Sarvinski, provided an update of current Shively Farm operations. Silas has an MBA which compliments his agricultural knowledge with a strong academic grounding in business. Silas grew up in a local farming family that produces organic vegetables and dairy and it was clear from Silas’ presentation to the board that our farm is thriving under his management.

Integral to our farm’s mission is for it to serve as a living laboratory where students gain distinctive, applied learning experiences. Our farm is used to teach progressive agricultural practices in plant science, animal science and agribusiness, and link classroom education with experiential learning and community outreach. Our students work with sheep, goats and chickens, drive tractors, learn irrigation and pest control techniques and grow produce.

The farm is in a floodplain which allows students to learn about dry farming, a form of crop production without irrigation. Farmers across the world are exploring the adoption of dry farming methods as a strategy of climate resilience as less water is available. The organic farm also promotes sustainability by using farming techniques that rebuild soil health with natural fertilizers. To further this effort, the agriculture program is beginning a pilot compost program to collect food waste at the college for use at the farm.

If you ask Silas why he wanted to work at CR, he would say that he wanted to share his knowledge and bring more awareness of what the farm and the program have to offer the community. His efforts have paid off. The community is now invited each year to several farm events including a pumpkin patch in September or October, You Pick events, and a series of open houses in the summer. Last month, community members participated in a workshop on processing culinary herbs, a walking tour, and a vegetable scavenger hunt for kids. Look for an upcoming open house inviting you to pick Himalayan berries.

In addition to learning how to farm, students acquire marketing and business skills by bringing what the farm produces to the college and the community through an on-campus farm stand and a booth at the Eureka Friday Night Market. They also run a twenty-week farm share program providing a variety of fresh produce each week to staff and students.

As food production in the state continues to evolve, so does CR’s agriculture program. To compliment all of Silas’ work on the farm, I am excited to announce that CR is welcoming a new full-time professor of agriculture, Robert Landry, to begin this fall. Robert brings valuable experience, having served as an instructor at Butte College and as an instructor and coordinator of the Sustainable Agriculture Program at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Board of Trustees and I are extremely proud of CR’s Shively Farm. We are fully committed to making sure that Silas and Professor Landry have the resources they require to continue the trajectory of the farm, which distinguishes itself by drawing connections between the land and our course studies. For anyone interested in learning from our terrific instructors and engaging in hands-on education at the farm, CR’s 1-unit sustainable agriculture lab (AG-63) is a great option.

Dr. Keith Flamer is the president of the College of the Redwoods.